ON SATURDAY 29th October, at the conference of the Labour Representation Committee in London, Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union delivered a passionate attack on elements within the steering committee of Momentum who are using very underhand methods to prevent a planned founding conference for Momentum that would give it a constitution and democratic internal structures.
Wrack is a member of the Momentum steering committee – a body that was meant to be a temporary structure until Momentum acquired a proper structure. Currently it has a national committee which created the smaller steering committee.
He began with a warning that at the Labour Party conference the old right-wing leadership had organisationally “run rings round” the left-wing Corbyn supporters, stitching up the agenda, who was to be allowed to speak and so on in advance to prevent Corbyn supporters getting a word in.
He warned that Momentum and the Left needed to improve their organisation – just having the support of the vast majority of Labour members is not enough and that those who wish to destroy Corbyn are not going to accept his re-election but will continue to fight at every level.
Wrack continued with an account of how Momentum sacked its vice-chair, Jackie Walker, for alleged anti-Semitism because she rightly refused to accept that anti-Zionism equates with anti-Semitism.
“What took place immediately after the Labour Party conference was an organised attempt by people with key access to the Momentum office to lobby in advance of any discussion to make sure that when the steering committee met it was already a foregone conclusion that Jackie would be removed a vice-chair,” said Wrack.
“It shook me that when people talk about the ‘new politics’ what we are seeing is exactly the replica of the old ‘machine politics’ that we want to see the back of.
“John Lansman [the leader of Momentum] has questions to answer about the conduct of the organisation of Momentum.”
He went on to give an account of the debate about what sort of founding conference they want: “First of all some don’t want a conference in the first place. Some of us have been arguing for eight months or more that we should have a conference at the earliest opportunity. How can you possibly defend rules and structure without some form of founding conference?
“Then there is the debate about what sort of conference it should be. To me the logical basis of the conference is the local groups….” “And yet it strikes me that in the Momentum office that from John [Lansman] there is a great resistance to have any trust or confidence in the local Momentum groups.”
Wrack reported that at a steering committee just a week previously two proposals had been made about the form the founding conference should take: firstly a conference of delegates from local groups and secondly an online conference with online debate and online voting.
The audience at the LRC conference reacted strongly, appalled by the second suggestion.
Matt Wrack continued: “My concern was what would be the point of anyone actually going to the conference if everyone simply sits behind a computer screen clicking the button. Who would propose things? The truth is a self-selected group of people would propose things.”
The steering committee agreed to circulate both proposals but then circulated only the second suggestion.
Then an emergency meeting of the steering committee was called with less than 24 hours’ notice – at which many members were unable to attend. That meeting cancelled the national committee meeting due to take place the following week. In doing that, it exceeded its powers because it is only a sub-committee of the national committee. “This is quite a serious matter as far as I’m concerned,” said Wrack.
John Lansman, who was due to speak at the LRC conference and could have used the opportunity to defend himself, withdrew, and decided not to speak.
But the LRC itself is also affected by “the old machine politics”. It has, without warning or giving any reasons, disaffiliated some of its affiliated groups.
Andy Brooks represented the NCP at the conference and other comrades also attended.